May 97 Viewpoint
Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 5
Column Tag: Viewpoint
By Eric Gundrum
Have You Put Your Development on Hold?
Do you have your development projects on hold while you wait for more information about Rhapsody? I sure hope not. Historically, Apple has had a tendency to tell developers about their grandiose technology plans and warn developers away from pursuing their own dreams because the "soon to be released" Apple technology will make obsolete those of the developer. Then, often enough, Apple's technology doesn't arrive until years later, if at all.
I don't mean to say that Rhapsody won't arrive, or even will be late. Apple has an ambitious development schedule, but they have dropped almost everything else to focus exclusively on the release of Rhapsody. This is probably a good thing given how Apple's future rides almost exclusively on the success of Rhapsody.
However, Apple's technology marketing has typically been about two years ahead of the technologies. That is, Apple convinces developers to adopt the new technologies a year or two too soon. This often leaves the developer struggling to meet cash flow requirements while Apple fixes bugs and the market evaluates the technology.
Apple's Official OS Schedule
Let's look at the Rhapsody schedule for a moment. Sometime this summer Apple will release to developers the first developer version of the new OS, but it likely will not be much more than NEXTSTEP on PowerPC. Early in 1998 Apple will offer the Premier Release of Rhapsody to all who want it. This release is expected to include all the planned features of the new OS, including a new Macintosh look and feel, but it will have only limited support for MacOS-based applications (the compatibility box). Late in 1998 Apple promises to release the Unified version of Rhapsody. This is supposed to be the finished product, and is likely to be the first version of Rhapsody to ship with hardware. This is the first version intended to replace the MacOS.
Over that same eighteen months Apple will release two major MacOS upgrades. These versions are intended to integrate the best of Apple's existing technologies and clear the shelves of anything interesting Apple had planned and was reasonably far along for Copland. We all expect the first such release, Tempo, will include a threaded Finder with the Copland look and feel. I'm not sure what to expect from the later release. If we are lucky, we will also eventually see V-Twin and Meta Content Framework (MCF-HotSauce). These same technologies are planned to be rolled into the Rhapsody compatibility box by the Unified release. These are the versions of the OS Apple will ship with hardware, at least until the Unified Rhapsody is available.
Yes Officer, I'll Slow Down
Over the years I have seen a great many Macintosh developers get excited about new Apple technologies at least a year too soon for them to make a living from the new technologies. Now may be the time for us to slow down a little and look at the OS we are living with right now. We have many great technologies that will be with us for many years to come. Maybe we should focus on those technologies a bit longer while we evaluate our ideas for Rhapsody.
When the developer version of Rhapsody is released later this summer will be a good time for us developers to take a look and see what is possible with the new, modern OS. It is quite likely there will be countless bits of software released to the community within days and weeks of the developer release, but most of that is just our exploring the technology. The real market won't even begin to develop until several months after the Premiere release, and that is plenty of time to learn the new OS and develop some cool software for it. Let's be patient and make sure we continue to put bread on our table by satisfying the market already at our doorstep.
To help you prepare for Rhapsody, MacTech will continue to bring you coverage of as much Rhapsody technology as we can get out of Apple. You can also find very useful descriptions and tutorials on the NeXT technologies from NeXT's web site at http://www.next.com/.
To help you take advantage of Macintosh technologies already available and soon to be released, we will also include coverage of them, including CyberDog, OpenDoc, Game Sprockets, Speech, OpenTransport, V-Twin and MCF. Although Apple has stated these technologies are not dead, just in maintenance mode, maybe some cool applications of these technologies will convince Apple of the marketing need to port them to Rhapsody. They are compelling technologies, and it is Apple's development of compelling technologies, and our desire for them, that has kept Apple alive all these years. Let's not ignore them.
MacHack on the Horizon
Many developers are looking for ways to quickly learn about Rhapsody. One of the best sources is likely to be June's MacHack. If Apple keeps to their OS schedule, there is a good chance the MacHack crew will have Rhapsody DR1 running in the Machine Room and several Apple engineers making presentations and looking for people to write cool hacks. Think of it as a huge coding kitchen. Check out http://www.machack.com/ for more information about MacHack.